This Week In Comics: 6/6/2012

This week in comics, DC’s attempt to cash-in on Watchmen 25 years too late (and a few years too late for the film) begins with Before Watchmen: Minutemen, Boom! launches some a pair of new ongoings, and Morrison kills Clark Kent, that bastard!

Swamp Thing #10 wins this week’s award for Most Misleading Cover, ignoring the book’s creepy imagery and muted colors for a bland-looking fight that doesn’t actually happen. It also wins the award for Molestiest Cover, unfortunately.

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Review: Red Lanterns #6

This week marked the sixth issue of the Red Lanterns debut run, and issue number six dredges through the plot just as slowly as the first five.  Overall, the Red Lanterns premise seems promising and full of potential, but thus far the execution has been slow to fruition.  Readers following the rage of the Red Lantern Corps should be privy to gruesome action scenes filled with blood, gore, and revenge as they tromp across the universe, yet it seems as if the Red Lanterns prefer to hangout on Ysmault to converse about mutiny and conspiracy.

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Review: Criminal: The Sinners #1

Criminal

After taking a number of months off to collaborate on their recent hit series Incognito, Brubaker and Phillips return to their critically acclaimed Criminal with “The Sinners”, their first arc to revisit a protagonist.  After the events of the stellar “Lawless” from a couple years back, Tracy Lawless finds himself in deep with the wrong kind of people.  Working as a hitman for a major criminal, Tracy quickly begins to outweigh his usefulness, insistent on investigating his targets to ensure that only the bad men die, so when his boss offers him an out – find out who’s been knocking off the town’s major players – he jumps at the chance.

And so begins the next chapter of the Brubaker/Phillips noir masterpiece.  Despite being a direct sequel to “Lawless”, the book stands easily on its own, what meager exposition is necessary quickly given in a few terse sentences.  Lawless remains a compelling character, and a good choice on which to hang a sequel, and it only takes a couple pages to get back into the rhythms of Brubaker’s brief, dark dialogue.

Phillips fares better here than he did on the nonetheless-excellent Incognito.  While he is talented enough to have adapted to the superheroic style there, his dark, static images function much better in the shadowy world of these particular lowlifes.

Criminal: The Sinners #1 doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t need to.  Brubaker and Phillips made crime comics cool again, and the effortless ease with which the pair slides us into their world makes it easy to see how.  Fans of the series are sure to embrace this latest entry, while new readers don’t need to worry about alienation.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

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Catch-Up Mini-Reviews

Captain Britain and MI:13 #15

Britain

Thus ends one of Marvel’s strongest ongoing books.  Cornell and Kirk wind down their title with the massive “Vampire State” arc that should’ve been cheesy as hell but ended up being gripping, exciting and just downright fun.  The issue is packed with excellently written and drawn action set-pieces that build off of everything that’s come before to give the issue the emotional closure it needed without sacrificing the excitement.  Top quality work.

Grade: B+

Runaways #12

Runaway

Immonen still hasn’t brought the energy of her absolutely fantastic Patsy Walker: Hellcat mini to the title, but her second issue shows a small amount of improvement over the first.  Pichelli’s art renders everyone and everything in the title improbably pretty, if overly cartoonish, but she handles the issue’s dramatic moments quite well.  Nothing spectacular yet, but more than good enough to keep giving it a shot.

Grade: B-

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #3

Ink3

Ink continues to be the surprise of the Final Crisis Aftermath titles for me as it uses the conventions of the gritty crime drama to tell the story of a supervillain seeking redemption.  Wallace and Fiorentino make the tale a little more complicated than it needs to be by having Richards’ tattoos come to life, but the metaphor is apt: escaping a life of crime is already hard without having those closest to you trying to drag you back into it.  

Grade: B

– Cal Cleary

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Captain Britain and MI:13 #14

Runaways #11

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #2

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #1

Review: Captain Britain and MI:13 #14

Captain Britain

Ah, good old Captain Britain and MI:13.  No matter what else is going wrong in the Marvel Universe, you’ll always be here to make it better, won’t you?  Well, unfortunately not – the book only has a short while left to live.  So, the question becomes: can Paul Cornell and co. give us a satisfying send-off to one of Marvel’s strongest titles?

This arc, titled “Vampire State” suggests that they can.  Dracula has been breeding an army of vampires on the moon and allying himself with all manner of supernatural menace before he begins to make his final move – conquering Britain in the name of his vampire army.  Despite the seemingly inherent camp in the premise, Cornell plays it straight and it pays off.  Rather than coming off as a post-ironic dig at a more innocent age, the issue suggests why the semi-realistic grim ‘n grit so often feels terribly false – this isn’t our world.  It’s one infinitely more scary, and infinitely more wonderful, and we see a little bit of both aspects in this issue.

After a quick turnaround from the seemingly doomed ending of last issue, we learn that our heroes at MI:13 have managed to pull one over on Dracula and buy themselves some time to fight back.  They use that time well, and Cornell brings us an action-packed issue with crisp, excellent art from Syaf and Kirk and and a parting ‘gift’ from Doctor Doom that sets up the issue to come and reminds us all why the good Doctor can be such an effective villain.

Captain Britain and MI:13 is far from flawless, but even at its worst, its an exciting book with solid characterization and fun, clever arcs – and this issue is far from the book’s worst.

Grade: B+

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Review: Casanova #12

I was going to take it easy on the reviewing for a few days before I checked Image’s website this morning and found out what was released today.

Casanova12Cover

It should be noted, that since this is Casanova, there’s going to be a lot of profanity in this review. I doubt anyone would care, but I thought I should throw this little disclaimer out for those with more refined taste.

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Review: Crime Bible: The Five Lessons of Blood #5

Crime Bible: The Five Lessons of Blood #5

“The Parable of the Faceless”

Greg Rucka concluded his mini-series starring Renee Montoya as The Question just last week with issue five of Crime Bible. The mini-series, a spin-off of DC’s last big event 52 deals with Renee’s ongoing rivalry with the ‘Dark Faith’, a religion dedicated to the spread of all the worst things in men. Each of the first four issues dealt with Renee being put through, in some way, one of the ‘Lessons of Blood’ – Deceit, Lust, Greed, and Murder – and in this, she’s put to the test in a way she never imagined as she is allowed entry into the heart of the Religion of Crime and faced with a terrifying prospect: has her time studying the faith changed her? Continue reading

Review: The Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall and the Green Mist of Death

Iron Fist Cover

I am an unabashed lover of Matt Fraction’s writing. The first book of his I ever read was the Punisher War Journal: Civil War hardcover, which included the issue “Small Wake for a Tall Man,” taking place at the wake for Stilt Man, who can only really be described as a silly D list villain from those crazy Silver Age Marvel books. I was hooked. I caught myself up on War Journal, bought the first Immortal Iron Fist hardcover and whatever issues had come out at the time, and delved into the mad world that is his creator owned Image Comics book, Casanova. Iron Fist has been fantastic so far, really invigorating the character and setting up a concrete legacy of Iron Fists that stretches far back into history. Previously, issue 7 of the ongoing series (entitled “The Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay”) was a one-shot issue that told a story of a previous Iron Fist. Now, with the release of Orson Randall and the Green Mist of Death, we have yet another jaunt into the past.

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Review: Ghost Rider #20

 cover

Ghost Rider, the little engine that could, hit twenty issues this month and to celebrate we get a brand new creative team: Jason Aaron and Roland Boschi. Aaron’s claim to fame is a little known Vertigo title named Scalped. Now, I don’t read Scalped, but after this issue of GR, I may have to pick it up in trades. Boschi reminds me of a looser Eduardo Risso (100 Bullets) and while some of the art was kind of scattered for my taste, once I got into the story’s flow I was able to put it out of my mind and enjoy the ride.

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